Every morning before I don my tallit, I contemplate my business for the day. By tradition, I separate out each of the 32 strings that constitute the tzitzit—fringes on my tallit. The purpose is to ensure that they are not entangled or knotted and that they are all intact. However, for me there is something deeper. An opportunity for a deep meditation.
You see, in a minute I will chant the blessing thanking G-d for the Mitzvah of enwrapping myself in my tallit—prayer shawl. I will then throw the tallit over my head and around my shoulders. I will let it fall along my sides and hang over my face. With my arms, I will hug my shoulders and I will stand there completely enveloped by the still holiness of my tallit. This is my quiet moment alone with G-d.
I will hold onto this sweet still moment for as long as I can and imagine the entire world enwrapped in G-d’s embrace. I will mumble prayers that express my yearning for separation from the coil that binds me to earthliness. Passages that express my yearning to feel G-d’s enfolding embrace, to be fully immersed and enveloped by G-d’s sacred aura. To feel His energy pulsate through me, in me, and around me.
But before I lose myself in that transcendental experience, I must separate out my thirty-two fringes. Each is lovingly gathered in my nimble fingers and smoothly separated from the pack. I run the string between my fingers and let it play out until it slips from my grasp. The process is repeated with every string in my bunched fists.
As I draw out each string, I think of the things I will do in the day that stretches out before me. I go through my calendar and each entry gets its own string. This string represents my morning coffee. The next string represents my call to the bank. The next string represents my tasks at work. I have a string for lunch, a string for dinner, a string for my time with the kids, and a string for my time with my wife. I have strings for my errands and a string for my elliptical. A string for my post workout shower and a string for going to bed. Every string represents something I will do today.
As I draw out my strings, I ask myself, are these things my business or G-d’s? Is there room for G-d in these things? In a moment, I will separate myself from my mundane mindset and envelop myself in G-d’s aura. That will certainly be a time alone with G-d. But is G-d in my burger and can of pop? Do I make space for G-d at the ballpark? When I stand for seventh inning stretch, is G-d there with me?
Or do I leave G-d behind when I do these things? G-d is in the synagogue, in the prayer book, in the tallit, and in the holy moments of my day. But when I get down and dirty, I don’t want to think of G-d at my side. That is not a G-dly business. That is my business. Drawing out each string of my day, gives me the chance to draw G-d into those moments too.
I don’t always manage to remain conscious of this meditation as my day unfolds. When I argue with my banker over a perceived false charge, I would rather not think that G-d is listening. I don’t sound very G-dly at that time. When I salivate over the steaming heaping plate placed before me at the restaurant during dinner, I am not exactly in a Divine state of mind.
Yet, I wear my tzitzit all day long. It is not the large folds of my enveloping tallit, but it doesn’t need to be. The large tallit moment happens when I am feeling inspired. But the individual string moments, the moments when I am engaged in what I like to call my business, they happen all the time.
So, I wear the small tzitzit under my shirt all day long and let the fringes hang down at my side. All I need to do is glance at them and I remember exactly who I am. Exactly what I am expected to do. I am reminded that my business is not my business. Everything is G-d’s business.
If G-d is at my side, I behave differently. If G-d is at my side, I eat differently. If G-d is at my side, I think differently. I am human so there are times when I forget that G-d is at my side. At such times I stray after my little indulgences and pleasures. The Torah reminds me to look at these fringes. The fringes that represent every step of my day. Look at them and remember who you are. Remember what is expected of you. You are not just anyone. You are G-d’s child. You are not just anywhere. You are in G-d’s presence.
On the golf course and on the beach, in the movie theater and at the club. At home or on vacation, I am not alone. A Jew is never alone. I am always in His company. He is constantly stirring the strings of my soul. And when I forget, the strings of my tzitzit remind me. This is why I wear them. This is why you should wear them too.
In my day I might have one or two tallit moments. It might be when I wake up in the morning and realize that I am alive. It might be when I stop after a strong summer downpour to watch the sun spread its rays across the sky. It might be as I float in the lake and take in the large expanse of G-d’s beautiful sky. It might be when I stop on the side of the road to watch a bee buzz around a beautiful flower. It might be when I am wearing my tallit and contemplating my infinitesimal role in G-d’s grand plan.
In my year, I might have one or two tallit moments. It might be at the end of Yom Kippur, when the Shofar is sounded (or when I get home after Yom Kippur and have my first drink of water). It might be at the Seder table as I crunch the matzah and contemplate G-d’s love for my ancestors in Egypt and for me.
In my life, I might have one or two tallit moments. It might be when my first borne enters this world. It might be when my attend my daughter’s graduation. It might be when I am dancing at my youngest child’s wedding. It might be when my grandchildren throw their arms around me and tell me they love me.
These are the grand moments; they are few and far between. In these moments I feel small, humble, and grateful to a G-d Who always has my back. I feel unworthy of the many kindnesses He bestows on me. I am suffused with so much emotion that I can feel G-d in my bones.
But the rest of my life are not tallit moments. It is filled with myriads and myriads of tzitzit moments. Fleeting moments in time, each as forgettable as the next. Times when I am busy seeing to the many tasks that comprise my business. But in these moments, I am surrounded by more beauty and grandeur than I can take in. In these moments, I encounter more beautiful souls doing selfless generous things than I can ever absorb. It is in these moments when I am most surrounded by G-d. I am not sitting in the lap of luxury, but I am nestled in G-d’s arms. He carries me through my day, fills my lungs with air, and my mind with ideas. These are not my moments; they are His moments. This is not my business; it is His business.
This is the message of the tzitzit. Find G-d in the most prosaic things of life. Remember G-d in the most mundane moments of the year. Involve G-d in the most selfish and indulgent moments of the day. Whatever I do, find a reason to do it for G-d. As the tip of my fork spears my perfectly marinated steak, as I lift it with tremulous anticipation and bring its succulent delights to my mouth, I pause and think of G-d. This is a tzitzit moment.
It doesn’t feel holy, and it doesn’t seem noble. But it is yours, dear G-d. I am going to chant a blessing before I dive in, and I will thank you for your bountiful gift. I will sink my teeth into my steak and feel its juices squirt into my mouth. As I do, I will remember that I am eating it to gain the strength I need for my next Mitzvah.
It is not my business, dear G-d. It is your business.